Historic Sites of Manitoba: Lions Residence for the Blind / Canadian National Institute for the Blind Residences and Recreation Centre (1041 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg)
Located on Portage Avenue between the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Building and Sherburn Park, this Winnipeg building replaced a previous Home for the Blind run by the Lions Club at 419 Cumberland Avenue. The design by local architect Lloyd Finch called for a $125,000 two-storey structure measuring 100 foot wide along Portage Avenue and 77 feet deep. A sod-turning ceremony involving Health and Public Welfare Minister Ivan Schultz was held on 17 June 1948, with officials from the province, city, CNIB, and Lions Club in attendance. A product of of five years of planning and effort, the $250,000 structure was financed entirely by the Lions Club of Winnipeg, who undertook an extensive fundraising campaign including theatrical productions at the Playhouse Theatre, for which the Winnipeg School Board allowed students time off school to purchase tickets and attend matinee performances.
With construction completed, the brick and stone exterior building was furnished using $24,000 in donations received from private citizens and local companies. In contrast to the preceding facility which had room for only 15 residents, the new building had rooms for 38 residents, along with overflow room for a further 12-15. It also had an auditorium, two canteens, and two committee rooms. An opening ceremonial opening was held on 25 August 1949, with Lions Club Building Committee member Ralph S. Misener presenting a golden key to CNIB (Toronto) General Manager A. V. Weir. Others in attendance included Mayor Garnet Coulter, Salvation Army Major A. H. Smith, Lieutenant Governor R. F. McWilliams, Education Minister C. R. Smith, CNIB (Central and Western Divison) Superintendent S. J. Evans, CNIB Women’s Auxiliary President Mrs. F. J. Bainard, Lions Club President F. S. Nichols, Canadian Council for the Blind (Manitoba Division) Chairman W. J. Johnson, Manitoba League for the Blind President George Shannon, CNIB Honourary Chairman A. E. Rowland, and CNIB Honourary Vice-Chairman H. H. Smith, and CNIB Board Chairman Carl A. Melvin. On 26-27 August, the building was opened to Lions Club members, friends, and family with a public open house held later that day. Residents began moving in on 29 August 1949.
In 1956, the building was renovated on plans by Finch in conjunction with an expansion to the Administration Building, at a collective cost of over $100,000. The facility’s capacity was bolstered with the addition of a west wing in 1957 constructed by the firm of John Miller and Sons Limited, completed at a cost of $224,562. Also financed by the Lions Club, the new wing added 50 single bedrooms and other auxiliary rooms. The building later became known as the CNIB Recreation Centre.
The CNIB closed the facility when it moved its administrative capacity to 1080 Portage Avenue in March 1983. The site, and that of the adjacent former CNIB Building at 1031 Portage Avenue, were collectively sold in 1982 for $1.95 million. This site is presently home to the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.
“Lions Club reveals Blind Home plans,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 November 1946, page 8.
“Lions Club plans bigger blind home,” Winnipeg Tribune, 5 June 1948, page 3.
“Sod to be turned for new Blind residence in city,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 June 1948, page 9.
“Building starts on Blind Home,” Winnipeg Tribune, 18 June 1948, page 9.
“Blind residences planned,” Winnipeg Tribune, 11 September 1948, page 10.
“Blind Home opening,” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 August 1949, page 13.
“Lions plan official opening of Home for Blind,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 August 1949, page 3.
“The Board of Management of The Canadian National Institute for the Blind,” Winnipeg Tribune, 24 August 1949, page 12.
“Gold key ceremony,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 August 1949, page 3.
“Lions Club residence for Blind,” Winnipeg Tribune, 26 August 1949, page 11.
“New Blind residences opened,” Winnipeg Tribune, 26 August 1949, page 13.
“Home for the Blind,” Winnipeg Tribune, 29 August 1949, page 6.
“$100,000 project for CNIB,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 June 1956, page 18.
“$224,562 tender for addition to Home for Blind,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 March 1957, page 2.
“CNIB aiming for $350,000,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 December 1982, page 5.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 19 April 2015
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